Sonny Liston


Sonny Liston
Sonny Liston

Liston in 1963
Statistics
Real name Charles L. Liston
Nickname(s) Sonny
The Big Bear[1]
Rated at Heavyweight
Height 6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)
Reach 84 in (213 cm)[citation needed]
Nationality United States American
Born Unknown
Sand Slough, Arkansas, USA
Died December 30, 1970(1970-12-30) (aged about 38)
Las Vegas, Nevada
Stance Orthodox
Boxing record
Total fights 54
Wins 50
Wins by KO 39
Losses 4
Draws 0
No contests 0

Charles L. "Sonny" Liston (Unknown – December 30, 1970) was a professional boxer and ex-convict known for his toughness, punching power, and intimidating appearance who became world heavyweight champion in 1962 by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round. Liston failed to live up to his fearsome reputation in an unsuccessful defense of the title against Muhammad Ali; underworld connections and an early death - along with his unrecorded date of birth - added to the enigma. He is ranked number 15 in Ring Magazine's 100 Greatest Punchers of All Time.

Contents

Early life

There is no record of Liston's birth, he once gave an age compatible with his being born in 1928 but is said to be absent from the 1930 United States Census[2] it has been suggested he may not have known what year he was born.[3] Liston settled on a date of birth of May 8, 1932 for official purposes but by the time he won the world title an aged appearance added credence to rumors that he was several years older than claimed.[4][5]

Charles "Sonny" Liston was born into a sharecropping family who farmed the poor land of Morledge Plantation near Johnson Township, St. Francis County, Arkansas. His father, Tobe Liston, had been a widower in his fifties who had already fathered twelve children with his first wife when he and 16 year old Helen Baskin moved to Arkansas from Mississippi in 1916, they had 13 children together. Sonny is believed to have been the penultimate child and youngest son.[6] Liston's father inflicted whippings so severe that the scars were still visible decades later.[7] Helen Baskin moved to St. Louis with some of her children, leaving Sonny - aged around 13, according to his later reckonings - in Arkansas with his father. Soon afterward Sonny rose early, thrashed the pecans from his brother-in-law's tree and sold them in (Forrest City). With the proceeds he traveled to St. Louis and reunited with his mother and siblings. Liston tried going to school but quickly left after jeers about his illiteracy, the only employment he could obtain was sporadic and exploitative.[6]

He turned to crime and led a gang of toughs who carried out muggings and robberies, often wearing a favorite shirt, and he became known to St. Louis PD as the "Yellow Shirt Bandit". In January 1950, he was caught after a gratuitously violent robbery[4][8] he was convicted and, in June 1950, sentenced to five years in Missouri State Penitentiary. He gave his age as 20 years old, the St. Louis Globe-Democrat said he was 22. [6]

Liston never complained about prison, saying he was guaranteed three meals every day [9] The athletic director at Missouri State Penitentiary, Father Alois Stevens, suggested to Liston he try boxing and his obvious aptitude, along with an endorsement from the priest, aided Liston in getting an early parole. Father Stevens organized a sparring session with a former pro light-heavyweight to showcase Liston's potential. After 2 rounds the ex-pro had taken enough. "Better get me out of this ring, he is going to kill me!" he exclaimed.[10] On Halloween night in 1952, Liston was paroled. Much was later made of his being controlled by criminals. However, according to the priest who interested him in boxing, underworld figures became his management simply because they were the only ones willing to put up the necessary money.[7]

Amateur boxing career

After he was released from prison on October 30, 1952, Liston had a brief amateur career that spanned less than a year. He won several amateur tournaments, including the Golden Gloves, which was his first. One of his opponents was Olympic Heavyweight Champion Ed Sanders in Chicago, whom he beat. This win put him into the national finals in March 1953, where he beat the respected New Yorker Julius Griffin, despite being dropped in round one.

Liston then entered the 1953 AAU event, but he lost in the quarter-finals to 17-year-old Jimmy Carter, whom he would later employ as a sparring partner. In the Kiel Auditorium in June 1953, Liston fought a boxer from a touring Western European side, Hermann Schreibauer, who only weeks earlier had won a bronze medal in the European Championships.[11] Liston KO'd him 2:16 into round 1. At this time the head coach of the St. Louis Golden Gloves team Tony Anderson commented Liston was the strongest fighter he had ever seen.

Liston signed his professional contract in September 1953, only exclaiming during the signing, "Whatever you tell me to do, I'll do."[10]

Professional boxing career

Liston made his professional debut on September 2, 1953, knocking out Don Smith in the first round in St. Louis, where he fought his first five bouts. Although he was dubbed the "big bear",[12] at 6 ft ½ in (1.84 m) Liston was not a particularly tall heavyweight, but was exceptionally powerful with a disproportionately long reach. His noticeably more muscular left arm and crushing left jab, and his left hook was his most powerful big punch, all lent credence to the widely held belief that he was left-handed but utilized an orthodox stance. No easy starter opponents, in his 6th bout, in Detroit, Michigan, Liston faced John Summerlin (19-1-2) on national television and won an eight-round decision. He later beat Summerlin in a rematch. The next bout was against Marty Marshall, a journeyman with an awkward style; in the third round Marshall managed to hit Liston, reportedly while he was laughing, and broke his jaw. Marshall had a better boxing record than many had thought. A stoic Liston finished the fight but lost the decision.

In 1955, he won six fights, five by knockout, including a rematch with Marshall, whom he knocked out in six rounds after first getting knocked down himself. A rubber match with Marshall in early 1956 saw Liston the winner in a ten-round decision. Liston's criminal record, compounded by a personal association with a notorious labor racketeer, led to the police stopping him on sight, and he began to avoid main streets. In May he injured a police officer who, Liston claimed, had used racial slurs, and a widely publicized account of Liston resisting arrest even after nightsticks were allegedly broken over his skull was later to aid public perceptions of him as a nightmarish 'monster' who was impervious to punishment. He was paroled after serving six months of a nine-month sentence and prohibited from boxing during 1957. After repeated overnight detention by the St. Louis police and a thinly veiled threat to his life, Liston left for Philadelphia.[13] In 1958, he returned to boxing, winning eight fights that year.

The year 1959 was a banner one for Liston: after knocking out contender Mike DeJohn in six, he then faced No. 1 challenger Cleveland Williams, a huge (for the era) fast-handed fighter who was billed as the hardest-hitting heavyweight in the world. Against Williams, Liston showed remarkable durability and punching power. He also revealed heretofore-unsuspected boxing skills, nullifying Williams' best work before stopping him in the third round of an "incredible" contest that many still regard as his most impressive performance. He rounded out the year by stopping Nino Valdez, also in three.

In 1960, Liston won five more fights, including a rematch with Williams who lasted only two rounds. Liston's imposing appearance was artificially enhanced with towels under his robe at referee's instructions; opponents would often be "psyched out" by the impact of his massive physique and baleful gaze. Roy Harris had gone 13 rounds with Patterson in a title match, Liston crushed him in one round. Top contender Zora Folley was stopped in three rounds and the run of knock outs led to Liston being touted as a 'champion in waiting'.

Style review from Sports Illustrated

In a Sports Illustrated profile of Liston at this time it was opined that he was rather ponderous, relied too much on his ability to take a punch and could be vulnerable to an opponent with more hand speed.[14] Liston's next opponent was skilled and seasoned Eddie Machen whose mobility enabled him to go the distance despite taunting and provoking throughout their bout. However Machen's spoiling tactics of dodging and grappling (at one point almost heaving Liston over the ropes) so alienated the audience that Liston received unaccustomed support from the crowd. [15] Prior to his bout with Liston, Ali consulted Machen and was advised that that the key to success was to make Liston lose his temper. [16][17]

Title challenge delay

After years of being ducked Liston was indisputably the number-one contender, but the handlers of world heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson further stalled a match for the title, ostensibly because of Liston's links to organized crime. Civic leaders were also reluctant, worrying that Liston's unsavory character would set a bad example to youth, Jack Dempsey spoke for many when he was quoted as saying Sonny Liston should not be allowed to fight for the title. Liston angrily responded by questioning whether Dempsey's failure to serve in World War I qualified him to moralize.[18] Frustrated, Liston changed his management and applied pressure through the media by remarking that Patterson (who had faced only white challengers since becoming champion) was drawing the color line against his own race.[19]

Patterson–Liston

Ironically, Floyd Patterson's manager Cus D'Amato had his New York State license revoked over his own underworld connections, and so when Patterson finally signed to meet Liston for the world title the venue was the relatively unlucrative one of Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois.[20] Leading up to the fight, Sonny Liston was the major betting-line favorite, though Sports Illustrated predicted a Patterson victory in 15 rounds. James J. Braddock, Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles, Rocky Marciano and Ingemar Johansson all picked Patterson to win. The fight also carried a number of social implications, as Liston's connections with the mob were well known and the NAACP had urged Patterson not to fight him, fearing that a Liston victory would tarnish the civil rights movement.[21] Patterson also claimed that John F. Kennedy did not want him to fight Liston.[22]

The one-sided nature of the bout was a major surprise. Patterson was expected to try to employ his speed and agility to counter Liston's size and power but in the event Patterson's tactics showed a complete lack of guile. Sports Illustrated writer Gilbert Rogin characterized the fight as "bathetic", claiming Patterson didn't punch enough, had inexplicably sought to clinch with his far heavier opponent and repeatedly made the basic error of failing to tie up both his opponent's arms in a clinch. Liston bulled Patterson around while using his free hand to batter him with body blows before shortening up and connecting with two double hooks high on the head.[23] It was the third-fastest knockout in a world heavyweight title fight and the first time the champion had been knocked out in round one. Rogin discounted speculation that Patterson had thrown the fight and suggested that "mental problems" had been responsible for his poor performance.[24]

Heavyweight champion of the world

On winning the heavyweight championship of the world, Liston had a speech prepared for the crowd which friends had assured him would meet him at Philadelphia airport. But, on arriving, Liston was met by only a handful of reporters and public relations staff. During an era when white journalists could still describe black sportsmen in stereotypes, Liston had long been a target of racially charged slurs; he was called a "gorilla" and "a jungle beast" in print. There was a mocking suggestion that a ticker-tape parade could use torn-up arrest warrants, and one sportswriter facetiously suggested Liston's defeat of Patterson proved that in a fair fight evil will always triumph over good. There were even unsubstantiated rumors that his management got charges dropped after he raped a chambermaid.[7] Liston brought some of this bad press on himself by a surly and hostile attitude toward reporters; he also had a reputation for bullying people such as porters and waitresses[25] and was disdained by many African-Americans. Asked by a young white reporter why he wasn't supporting the campaign for Civil Rights in the South, Liston replied "I ain't got no dog-proof ass".[26] However in the aftermath of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing Liston broke off a European boxing exhibition tour to return home and was quoted as saying he was "ashamed to be in America".[27]

Run-ins with the police continued in Philadelphia. Liston particularly resented a 1961 arrest (by a black patrolman) for loitering, claiming to have merely been signing autographs and chatting with fans outside a drug store.[28] One month later Liston was accused of impersonating a police officer by using a flashlight to wave down a female motorist in Fairmount Park, although all charges were later dropped. Subsequently Liston spent some months in Denver where a Catholic priest who acted as his spiritual adviser attempted to help him bring his drinking under control. After he won the title Liston relocated to Denver permanently, saying, "I'd rather be a lamppost in Denver than the mayor of Philadelphia."[26]

Patterson–Liston II

Patterson and Liston had a rematch, held on the evening of July 22, 1963, in Las Vegas, Nevada. Liston floored the challenger three times in the first round of the scheduled-for-15 bout. The knockout came in 2 minutes 10 seconds, 4 seconds later than in their first meeting.[26] After this victory the champion was loudly booed.[25]

Liston–Ali

On the evening of February 25, 1964 in Miami, Florida, he fought Cassius Clay, whom odds-makers had made a 7-1 underdog. Some were surprised during the referee's instructions to see that Ali was considerably taller than Liston, the so-called "Big Bear". When the fight started it became apparent that Liston was not in top condition.[7] Although he initially got through with some punches to the body, Liston had little offensive success after round two. Ali found him easy to hit and began to score with his quick jab and long right; a cut opened on Liston's face in round three. Ali's vision became severely impaired during rounds four and five, but Liston's work remained ineffectual nonetheless. At one point Ali was leaning on Liston 'like a drunk leaning on a lamppost' as he held him at bay with one extended arm while wiping his own eyes with the other. [29] Once Ali's eyes cleared, the fight became increasingly one-sided as he began to land at will; throughout the sixth Liston was mercilessly pummeled with combinations. Although Liston was losing he seemed able to continue, and it was a stunning surprise when he declined to come out for the seventh round, ostensibly because of a shoulder injury. One respected boxing figure claimed that after the fight Liston had picked up a heavy stuffed chair and tossed it across the locker room with his left arm.[30] Liston quitting was thought particularly remarkable as he had once fought several rounds with a broken jaw. However, some writers have contended that Ali inflicted more punishment on Liston than is usually acknowledged and maintain that Liston's motivation was simply to spare himself further trauma.[29] Another theory was that Ali's verbal prefight tirades had gotten to "the Ugly Bear". A possible more straightforward explanation was suggested by the promoter's allegation that the night before the bout Liston had been visibly inebriated.[31]

Liston–Ali II

Liston lost twenty pounds during his initial preparation for the rematch, but there were again rumors of alcohol abuse in training.[32] On May 25, 1965, he faced Ali again. The bout was originally scheduled for Boston, Massachusetts, but Ali, a week before the fight, was hospitalized with a hernia. The rescheduled match was held in the city of Lewiston, Maine.

Less than two minutes into the fight, while he was pulling away from Liston, Ali hit Liston with a punch that did not seem to have much weight behind it; Liston went down, rolling onto his back, but Ali did not go to a neutral corner as mandated by the rules and accordingly referee Jersey Joe Walcott never counted over Liston. Ali yelled hysterically at Liston, running around the ring, arms aloft. During this time Liston made a half-hearted attempt to get back to his feet, before again rolling onto his back. After Liston finally got up, ringside boxing writer Nat Fleischer informed Walcott that Liston had been on the canvas for over 10 seconds and that the fight should be over. Walcott then waved the fight off, even though he had never counted Liston out. A photograph showing Ali standing over Liston is one of the most heavily promoted photos in the history of sports, and was chosen as the cover of the Sports Illustrated special issue, "The Century's Greatest Sports Photos". Ali was never to stop another opponent in the first round.

While Liston publicly denied taking a dive, Sports Illustrated writer Mark Kram said that years later Liston told him, “That guy [Ali] was crazy. I didn’t want anything to do with him. And the Muslims were coming up. Who needed that? So I went down. I wasn’t hit.”[33] Former champions Jack Dempsey, Joe Louis, and Gene Tunney, as well as Ali opponents George Chuvalo and Floyd Patterson, have all stated that they consider the fight to be a fake. The extent to which Liston's heavy drinking and possible drug use may have contributed to his surprisingly poor performances against Ali is not known.[7]

Subsequent fights

After the second loss to Ali, Liston took a year off from boxing, returning in 1966 and 1967, winning four consecutive bouts in Sweden, co-promoted by former World Heavyweight Champion Ingemar Johansson. These knockout victories included one over Amos Johnson, who had recently defeated Britain's Henry Cooper. In 1968, he won seven fights, all by knockout, including one in Mexico.

America's first look at Liston since the Ali rematch was in a nationally broadcast match with an upcoming No. 5—ranked Henry Clark, whom he overpowered well in seven rounds. A 10-round decision over Billy Joiner in St. Louis continued the run of victories and Liston at 38 years old (but having the appearance of a man of 50[4]) seemed on the verge of making a comeback to the big time. He talked of a fight with Joe Frazier, claiming "it'd be like shooting fish in a barrel". But, in December, Liston was knocked out cold in the ninth round by Leotis Martin after dominating most of the fight and decking Martin with a left hook in the fourth (Martin's career ended after the fight because of a detached retina).

Liston won his final fight, a tough match against future world title challenger Chuck Wepner in June 1970, the referee stopped the bout in the 10th with Wepner needing 72 stitches and having suffered a broken cheekbone and nose.

Personal life

Liston married Geraldine Clark in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, on September 3, 1957. He had a stepdaughter and the Listons subsequently adopted a boy from Sweden. Geraldine remembered her husband as "Great with me, great with the kids. He was a gentle man".[26]

Death

In the midst of negotiations for a match with Canadian champion George Chuvalo, Liston's wife found him dead in their Las Vegas home on January 5, 1971.[34] On returning from a trip Geraldine had smelt a foul odor emanating from the main bedroom and on entering saw Sonny slumped up against the bed, a broken foot bench was on the floor. The day of his death on his death certificate is December 30, 1970 which police estimated by judging the number of milk bottles and newspapers at the front door.[35] Following an investigation, Las Vegas police concluded that there were no signs of foul play and declared it a heroin overdose. An autopsy revealed traces of morphine and codeine of a type produced by the breakdown of heroin in the body, however the advanced state of decomposition meant that tests were inconclusive and officially Liston died of lung congestion and heart failure.[36] He had been suffering from hardening of the heart muscle and lung disease before his death.[37]

Some,[who?] however, believe that the police investigation was a coverup, and the cause of Liston's death remains unresolved.[4] After winning the title, Liston at first refused to go on an exhibition tour of Europe when he was told he would have to get shots before he could travel overseas. Liston's wife also reported that her husband would refuse basic medical care for common colds because of his dislike of needles. This, coupled with the fact that Liston was never known to be a substance abuser (besides heavy drinking), prompted rumors that he could have been murdered by some of his underworld contacts. Sonny's wife had a vivid dream the night of December 28, in which Sonny was in a shower shouting "Help me, Geraldine, help me, Geraldine".[38]

Additionally, authorities could not locate any other drug paraphernalia that Liston presumably would have needed to inject the fatal dose, such as a spoon to cook the heroin or an appendage to wrap around his arm. This only added to the mystery surrounding his death. A friend of Liston's told Unsolved Mysteries that Liston had been in a car accident a few weeks prior to his death. Liston was hospitalized with minor injuries, and received intravenous medicine. This is believed to be the source of the puncture wound that authorities found upon discovering Liston's body.

Sonny Liston is interred in Paradise Memorial Gardens in Las Vegas. His headstone bears the simple epitaph "A Man."

Professional boxing record

50 Wins (39 knockouts, 11 decisions), 4 Losses (3 knockouts, 1 decision), 0 Draws [4]
Result Record Opponent Type Round Date Location Notes
Win 50–4 United States Chuck Wepner RTD 9 (10) 29/06/1970 United States Armory, Jersey City, New Jersey, United States Wepner down in fifth by body punch. Fight stopped by ring doctor after round 9 because of multiple cuts on Wepner's face.
Loss 49–4 United States Leotis Martin KO 9 (12) 06/12/1969 United States International Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States For vacant NABF Heavyweight title. Martin down in round 4, and was behind on points when he KOed Liston. Martin was forced to retire shortly afterwards, as he suffered a detached retina in this bout.
Win 49–3 United States Sonny Moore KO 3 (10) 23/09/1969 United States Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas, United States
Win 48–3 United States George Johnson TKO 7 (10) 19/05/1969 United States Convention Hall, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States
Win 47–3 United States Billy Joiner UD 10 28/03/1969 United States Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 46–3 United States Amos Lincoln KO 2 (10) 10/12/1968 United States Civic Center, Baltimore, Maryland, United States
Win 45–3 United States Roger Rischer KO 3 (10) 12/11/1968 United States Civic Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Win 44–3 United States Willis Earls KO 2 (10) 03/11/1968 Mexico Bull Ring, Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
Win 43–3 United States Sonny Moore TKO 3 (10) 14/10/1968 United States Veteran's Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix, Arizona, United States
Win 42–3 United States Henry Clark TKO 7 (10) 06/07/1968 United States Cow Palace, San Francisco, California, United States
Win 41–3 United States Billy Joiner RTD 7 (10) 23/05/1968 United States Grand Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, California, United States Joiner down in the 3rd. Joiner retired in his corner after 7 rounds.
Win 40–3 United States Bill McMurray KO 4 (10) 16/03/1968 United States Coliseum, Reno, Nevada, United States
Win 39–3 United States Elmer Rush TKO 6 (10) 28/04/1967 Sweden Johanneshov, Stockholm, Sweden Rush down twice in 4th, three times in 5th and four times in 6th.
Win 38–3 United States Dave Bailey KO 1 (10) 30/03/1967 Sweden Masshallen, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 37–3 United States Amos Johnson KO 3 (10) 19/08/1966 Sweden Ullevi, Gothenburg, Sweden
Win 36–3 Germany Gerhard Zech KO 7 (10) 01/07/1966 Sweden Johanneshov, Stockholm, Sweden
Loss 35–3 United States Muhammad Ali KO 1 (15) 25/05/1965 United States St. Dominic's Hall, Lewiston, Maine, United States For World Heavyweight title. In round 1, Liston fell to the canvas, in what many have argued was not a legitimate knockdown. Referee Jersey Joe Walcott took 20 seconds to figure out what to do, and by then Liston had gotten to his feet and resumed boxing. Nat Fleischer finally told Walcott that Liston had spent more than 10 seconds on the canvas, and Walcott stopped the fight awarding Ali a knockout win.
Loss 35–2 United States Muhammad Ali RTD 6 (15) 25/02/1964 United States Convention Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, United States Lost World Heavyweight title. Liston retired on his stool citing an injured shoulder. 1964 Fight of the Year by The Ring Magazine
Win 35–1 United States Floyd Patterson KO 1 (15) 22/07/1963 United States Las Vegas Convention Center, Las Vegas, Nevada, United States Retained World Heavyweight Title. Patterson was knocked down 3 times.
Win 34–1 United States Floyd Patterson KO 1 (15) 25/09/1962 United States Comiskey Park, Chicago, Illinois, United States Won World Heavyweight Title. Liston made history by being the first man to ever knockout a heavyweight champion in the first round in boxing history.
Win 33–1 Germany Albert Westphal KO 1 (10) 04/12/1961 United States Convention Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States First time Westphal was knocked down in his career.
Win 32–1 United States Howard King TKO 3 (10) 08/03/1961 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Win 31–1 United States Eddie Machen UD 12 07/09/1960 United States Sicks' Stadium, Seattle, Washington, United States Liston penalized three points for low blows.
Win 30–1 United States Zora Folley KO 3 (12) 18/07/1960 United States Coliseum, Denver, Colorado, United States Liston's sledge-hammer hands smashed Folley to the canvas twice in the 2nd round.
Win 29–1 United States Roy Harris TKO 1 (10) 25/04/1960 United States Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas, United States Harris was down three times.
Win 28–1 United States Cleveland Williams TKO 2 (10) 21/03/1960 United States Sam Houston Coliseum, Houston, Texas, United States Williams was down for an 8-count before the knockout.
Win 27–1 United States Howard King TKO 8 (10) 23/02/1960 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Win 26–1 Germany Willi Besmanoff TKO 7 (10) 09/12/1959 United States Arena, Cleveland, Ohio, United States The referee stopped the bout between rounds.
Win 25–1 Cuba Nino Valdez KO 3 (10) 05/08/1959 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Win 24–1 United States Cleveland Williams TKO 3 (10) 15/04/1959 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, United States Williams was knocked down twice in the 3rd.
Win 23–1 United States Mike DeJohn TKO 6 (10) 18/02/1959 United States Exhibition Hall, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Win 22–1 United States Ernie Cab TKO 8 (10) 18/11/1958 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, United States Doctor stopped the bout due to Cab's left eye and nose being cut.
Win 21–1 United States Bert Whitehurst UD 10 24/10/1958 United States Arena, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 20–1 United States Frankie Daniels KO 1 (10) 07/10/1958 United States Auditorium, Miami Beach, Florida, United States
Win 19–1 United States Wayne Bethea TKO 1 (10) 06/08/1958 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Win 18–1 Cuba Julio Mederos RTD 2 (10) 14/05/1958 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Win 17–1 United States Bert Whitehurst PTS 10 03/04/1958 United States Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 16–1 United States Ben Wise TKO 4 (10) 11/03/1958 United States Midwest Gymnasium, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Win 15–1 United States Billy Hunter TKO 2 (10) 29/01/1958 United States Chicago Stadium, Chicago, Illinois, United States
Win 14–1 United States Marty Marshall UD 10 06/03/1956 United States Pittsburgh Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States Marshall substituted on four days notice for Harold Johnson who injured his shoulder in training.
Win 13–1 United States Larry Watson TKO 4 (10) 13/12/1955 United States Alnad Temple, East Saint Louis, Illinois, United States
Win 12–1 United States Johnny Gray TKO 6 (10) 13/09/1955 United States Victory Field, Indianapolis, Indiana, United States
Win 11–1 United States Calvin Butler TKO 2 (8) 25/05/1955 United States Arena, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 10–1 United States Emil Brtko TKO 5 (10) 05/05/1955 United States Duquesne Gardens, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Win 9–1 United States Marty Marshall TKO 6 (10) 21/04/1955 United States Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States Marshall down once in round 5 and 3 times in round 6.
Win 8–1 United States Neal Welch PTS 8 01/03/1955 United States Masonic Temple, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Loss 7–1 United States Marty Marshall SD 8 07/09/1954 United States Motor City Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States Liston suffered a broken jaw during round 4.
Win 7–0 United States Johnny Summerlin SD 8 10/08/1954 United States Motor City Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Win 6–0 United States Johnny Summerlin UD 8 29/06/1954 United States Motor City Arena, Detroit, Michigan, United States
Win 5–0 United States Stanley Howlett PTS 6 31/03/1954 United States Arena, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 4–0 United States Martin Lee TKO 6 (6) 25/01/1954 United States Masonic Temple, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 3–0 United States Bennie Thomas SD 6 21/11/1953 United States Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 2–0 United States Ponce de Leon PTS 4 17/09/1953 United States Kiel Auditorium, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States
Win 1–0 United States Don Smith TKO 1 (4) 02/09/1953 United States Arena, Saint Louis, Missouri, United States

In popular culture

  • A feature film about Liston's life Phantom Punch, starring Ving Rhames was produced in 2008 by Hassain Zaidi, Marek Posival and Ving Rhames.
  • In the 2001 film Ali, Liston was portrayed by former WBO world heavyweight champion Michael Bentt
  • A wax statue of Liston in his boxing robe, borrowed from Madame Tussauds' Wax Museum, stands next to The Beatles on the cover of their 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • Liston made a cameo appearance in the 1968 film Head, which starred The Monkees.
  • Liston played the part of the "Farmer" in the 1970 film Moonfire, with Richard Egan and Charles Napier.
  • Liston appeared in a 1960s Braniff Airlines TV commercial with Andy Warhol.[4]
  • The Munsters - Season 1, Episode 23 titled Follow That Munster (original air date 2-25-1965) references Liston when Lily calls herself "Sonny Liston" as she strikes Herman in the jaw, knocking him down.
  • Jerry Spinelli, the author of the children's novel Stargirl, included him in its dedication because its titular character has an analogous experience.
  • Liston appears as a character in James Ellroy's novel The Cold Six Thousand. In the novel, Liston not only drinks, but also pops pills, and works as a sometime enforcer for a heroin ring in Las Vegas. Liston also appears in the sequel, Blood's a Rover.
  • Brian DeVido's 2004 novel Every Time I Talk to Liston details a boxer's attempts to draw inspiration from visits to Liston's Las Vegas grave.
  • Sonny Liston Was a Friend of Mine is the title of a 2000 collection of short stories by Thom Jones
  • Hunter S. Thompson's novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas mentions Liston: "The idea that two heroin pushers in a white Cadillac convertible would be dragging up and down the Strip, abusing total strangers at stoplights, was prima facie absurd. Not even Sonny Liston ever got that far out of control."
  • Redd Foxx mispronounced the boxer's name (whether accidentally or deliberately isn't quite clear) as "Sonny Lister" on his comedy album Live and Dirty, vol. 1.
  • The Season six premiere of Scrubs, "My Mirror Image": The older patient the Janitor is talking to claims to have punched a whale and that the whale went down 'like Liston'.
  • In the film Sleepers, a poster for Liston is seen on the wall of Robert De Niro's apartment and shows The Pines as the location of the fight.
  • Sonny Liston is the name of an indie folk band from Oxford, England.
  • The TV show E-Ring features a character named Samantha "Sonny" Liston.
  • Liston has been referenced in songs by artists such as Sun Kil Moon, The Animals, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, Phil Ochs, Morrissey, The Mountain Goats, Freddy Blohm, Chuck E. Weiss, This Bike is a Pipe Bomb, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.
  • Mark Knopfler's tribute to Liston, "Song for Sonny Liston," appeared on his 2004 album Shangri-La.
  • Liston is mentioned in the Sun Kil Moon song "Glenn Tipton". This song is also found on Mark Kozelek's 2006 live solo album "Little Drummer Boy." Lyrics: "Cassius Clay was hated more than Sonny Liston. Some like KK Downing more than Glenn Tipton. Some like Jim Nabors, some Bobby Vinton. I like 'em all..."
  • Liston is mentioned in The Roots song "Don't Feel Right": "And that's the reason we livin' where they don't wanna visit, where the dope's slang and keep swingin' like Sonny Liston"
  • Liston is mentioned in the Wu-Tang Clan song "Triumph": "Sound convincing, thousand dollar court by convention, hands like Sonny Liston."
  • Liston is mentioned in the Gone Jackals song "Born Bad": "I dodged a sucker punch and dropped a bomb, like Liston, on an animal hunch."
  • Liston is mentioned in the Billy Joel song "We Didn't Start the Fire": "Liston beats Patterson."
  • Liston is mentioned in The Mountain Goats song "Love Love Love": "And Sonny Liston rubbed some tiger balm into his glove..."
  • Liston is mentioned in the Roll Deep song "Badman": "Youths go missing in the system, get banged up like Sonny Liston."
  • Liston is mentioned in the Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song "Babe, I'm On Fire" from 2004's Nocturama.
  • Liston appears on the December 1963 cover of Esquire magazine (cover photograph by Carl Fischer) "the last man on earth America wanted to see coming down its chimney".
  • Liston is mentioned in the UCL song "Save You From the Fire: I'm winning this fight like Ali vs. Liston."
  • Liston is mentioned in the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song, "Swingin'" on their 1999 album Echo: "Yeah, she went down swinging / Like Sonny Liston."
  • Elizabeth Bear wrote the short story "Sonny Liston Takes the Fall"], published in The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2008. It speculates that Liston threw the Ali match for the social good.
  • Liston is mentioned in The Animals version of the John Lee Hooker song "I'm Mad": "I'm mad, mad like Al Capone, I'm mad, mad like Sonny Liston...."
  • Liston is mentioned in the title of The Fire Show song "Sonny Liston, Dead Like Latin"

See also

Portal icon Biography portal
Portal icon Sports and games portal


References

  1. ^ http://www.fastload.org/so/Sonny_Liston.html - His opponent Muhammad Ali used this nickname against Liston, changing it to "the Big Ugly Bear" and leaving bear traps outside Liston's house
  2. ^ The Mysterious Birth of Sonny Liston
  3. ^ Puma, Mike (2007). "Liston was trouble in and out of ring". http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Tosches, Nick (2000). The Devil And Sonny Liston. Boston: Little, Brown. ISBN 0316897752. 
  5. ^ Puma, Mike (2007). "Liston was trouble in and out of ring". http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html. 
  6. ^ a b c Remnick, David (1998). King of the World: Muhammad Ali and the Rise of an American Hero. New York: Random House. ISBN 0330371894. 
  7. ^ a b c d e Reputations: Sonny Liston: The Champion Nobody Wanted,(2001) 50 min, BBC Documentary
  8. ^ Puma, Mike (2007). "Liston was trouble in and out of ring". http://espn.go.com/classic/biography/s/Liston_Sonny.html. 
  9. ^ Sares, Ted (November 22, 2006). "Boxing's Hard Times, Good Times". East Side Boxing. http://www.eastsideboxing.com/news.php?p=8992&more=1. 
  10. ^ a b Mee, Bob (2010). Liston and Ali: The Ugly Bear and the Boy Who Would Be King. London: Mainstream Publishing. ISBN 9781845966225. 
  11. ^ Sonny Liston - From The Big House To The Big Time http://sports.jrank.org/pages/2863/Liston-Sonny-From-Big-House-Big-Time.html
  12. ^ Jet 21 Jan 1971
  13. ^ Ebony Aug 1962
  14. ^ sports illustrated Heavyweight In Waiting
  15. ^ fight video & Really A Hug Fest,by Emmett Watson.,Sports Illustrated, September 19, 1960 [1]
  16. ^ The great fights: a pictorial history of boxing's greatest bouts, Bert Randolph Sugar - 1981
  17. ^ Really A Hug Fest,by Emmett Watson.,Sports Illustrated, September 19, 1960 [2]
  18. ^ Ebony, Aug 1962, Page 50
  19. ^ Ebony Aug 1962, page 52
  20. ^ Mailer: A Biography By Mary V. Dearborn, page 186
  21. ^ Esquire covers commemorate boxing's prime
  22. ^ http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/05/11/sportsline/main1610954.shtml Ex-Champ Floyd Patterson Dies At 71
  23. ^ Sonny Liston: The Facts http://www.thesweetscience.com/news/articles/705-sonny-liston-the-facts
  24. ^ The Facts About The Big Fight http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1147918/index.htm
  25. ^ a b Symbolic leaders: public dramas and public men By Orrin E. Klapp, Orrin Edgar Klapp Page 47, [3]
  26. ^ a b c d "O Unlucky Man", by William Nack, Sports Illustrated, February 4, 1991.
  27. ^ Jet, 3 Oct 1963, p. 57.
  28. ^ Ebony Aug 1962, Page 52
  29. ^ a b The great fights: a pictorial history of boxing's greatest bouts, Bert Randolph Sugar - 1981
  30. ^ Only the Ring Was Square, Teddy Brenner, 1981, Prentice Hall Trade
  31. ^ Jet 25 Jun 1964, p. 56
  32. ^ Sports Illustrated, November 2, 1964, The Prefight Moods of Sonny Liston
  33. ^ A TV documentary around 2000 detailed much the same with Liston's widow advising Sonny had told her similar. "Sonny Liston comments on Phantom Punch.". boxingmemories.com. http://boxingmemories.com/2011/03/10/liston-was-trouble-in-and-out-of-ring/. A TV documentary around 2000 detailed much the same with Liston's widow advising Sonny had told her similar.. Retrieved 2011-03-16. 
  34. ^ The Sad Legacy of Sonny Liston
  35. ^ Like Fights Against Ali, Liston Death a Mystery
  36. ^ "Video". CNN. February 4, 1991. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1118820/8/index.htm. 
  37. ^ Jet 4 Feb 1971, P.51
  38. ^ Steen, Rob (2008). Sonny Liston: His Life, Strife and the Phantom Punch. London: JR. ISBN 9781906217815. 

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Floyd Patterson
World Heavyweight Champion
1962–1964
Succeeded by
Cassius Clay (Muhammad Ali)


Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Sonny Liston — Daten Geburtsname Charles L. Liston Gewichtsklasse Schwergewicht Nationalität US Amerikanisch Geburtstag …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Sonny Liston — Fiche d’identité Nom complet Charles L. Liston Surnom Sonny Nationalité …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Sonny Liston — Este artículo o sección necesita ser wikificado con un formato acorde a las convenciones de estilo. Por favor, edítalo para que las cumpla. Mientras tanto, no elimines este aviso. También puedes ayudar wikificando otros artículos o cambiando este …   Wikipedia Español

  • Sonny Liston — Сонни Листон Общая информация Полное имя: англ. Charles L. Liston Прозвище: Сонни (англ …   Википедия

  • Sonny Liston — noun United States prizefighter who lost his world heavyweight championship to Cassius Clay in 1964 (1932 1970) • Syn: ↑Liston, ↑Charles Liston • Instance Hypernyms: ↑prizefighter, ↑gladiator …   Useful english dictionary

  • Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston — The two Ali versus Liston fights for boxing s world heavyweight championship were among the most anticipated, watched and controversial fights in the sport s history. Contents 1 Background 2 Pre Fight Publicity 3 Baiting the Bear …   Wikipedia

  • Muhammad Ali versus Sonny Liston — The two Ali versus Liston fights for boxing s world heavyweight championship were among the most anticipated, watched and controversial fights in the sport s history. Background At the time of the first fight in 1964, Liston was the world… …   Wikipedia

  • Sonny — is a common given name, and may refer to: * Sonni Ali, the first great king of the Songhai Empire * Sonny Ates, a retired American racecar driver * Ralph Sonny Barger, a founding member of the original Oakland, California, USA chapter of Hells… …   Wikipedia

  • Liston — may refer to: * Sonny Liston, a heavyweight boxer * Liston, a village in Essex, England * Liston, New South Wales, a village in Australia * Robert Liston, a Scottish surgeon …   Wikipedia

  • Liston — ist der Familienname folgender Personen: Melba Liston (1926–1999), US amerikanische Jazzmusikerin Robert Liston (1794–1847), britischer Chirurg Sonny Liston (1932–1970), US amerikanischer Boxer Diese Seite ist eine …   Deutsch Wikipedia


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.